“Investing in children is the key to reducing social and economic gaps.” This was the message made clear to Government representatives from 16 countries across East Asia and the Pacific from discussions on how fiscal and social policies can halt growing disparities and sustain future growth in an uncertain global economic environment in Vietnam on Monday.
Economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region has lifted millions of people out of poverty.
But this success masks starkly uneven progress with the prosperity of many hiding the deepening poverty of others. Millions of families in the region are being bypassed by both economic growth and progress on key social indicators.
For the Pacific Islands, high exposure to commodity price fluctuations, geographic isolation, and high reliance on imported food and fuel, has constrained growth and poverty reduction.
Across the region many children still do not have access to essential social services like healthcare and education because they are poor, or live in rural or remote areas. Evidence from early-warning monitoring of vulnerable families in the Pacific, shows that food adequate food and nutrition is a growing concern.
The meeting in Ha Noi was convened by UNICEF in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance in Viet Nam to strengthen coordination between key public finance and social policy makers in an effort to identify quality investments in children that will reduce existing disparities.
UNICEF’s Chief of Policy and Planning, Samantha Cocco-Klein said understanding how children experience poverty in the Pacific is an essential first step to addressing gaps.
With global food prices a rising concern, limited growth in many Pacific Island countries and the constant set-backs caused by natural disasters, it is more critical than ever that investments in children and social safety nets are expanded.
Harnessing and uniting the substantial knowledge and skills of public finance and social policy experts in ministries of Finance, Health, Education and Social Welfare will be the key to meeting this challenge.